Earlier this year, Sanofi-Aventis outlined some ambitious new plans for its operations in Germany. The pharma giant announced plans to invest €40 million in new facilities that could produce antibodies as well as substances with low molecular weight. At the same time, the country's biotech industry boasted of its generally stable biotech employment--despite a rapid drop in the amount of investment capital available to the country's developers.
Germany has been better positioned to take on the recession because of a decision more than a decade ago to offer substantial sums to support the development of its BioRegions. A high-tech founders' fund was developed, which provides companies an initial seed venture capital investment of €500,000, says Kai Uwe Bindseil, director of the biotechnology initiative of the federal states of Berlin and Brandenburg, BioTOP. And four years ago Germany established a special initiative that offers 10 to 12 projects a year up to €5 million to get to the proof-of-concept stage.
But Binseil and other leaders of the country's biotech industry are pushing for more.
"Further activity is necessary to support venture capital businesses," says Bindseil, "which is quite difficult on the political level," where the country's financial leaders have been held to task for the downturn. "Further activities are also need in the interface of science and industry. We need to give scientists more money" to nurture new programs to proof of concept. The IMI, he adds, isn't going to be enough.
The IMI "is a very, very important initiative in the long-term," says Bindseil. "Short-term, it's little money to develop an industry: One billion euros over an entire continent."